With travel bans and stay-at-home orders, COVID-19 only intensified navigating the challenges of international adoption. For Moffett & Sanders School of Nursing alumna Kelly (Snow) Preston ’96 and ’00, these challenges underscored the need to support families in the process of adopting more important than ever.
Preston is the founder of RACE for the Orphans, a Georgia-based non-profit raising awareness about the needs of orphans worldwide. When RACE had to cancel its annual flagship fundraising 5K due to the pandemic, she was shocked when sponsors and donors still gave $41,000 to support families seeking to adopt children from across the globe including India, Colombia and China. The unique fundraising experience in a difficult year was a powerful moment of recognition for Preston.
“Seeing the immense support of our community showed that they truly believe in our mission to help families bring their children home,” Preston said.
Seven families received grants through the money raised in 2020, but it wasn’t long ago that Preston and her husband Jason Preston ‘95 organized the inaugural RACE in 2013 to help raise funds to bring their daughter, Jenna, home from China. The idea was a natural fit for the two former running athletes who first met while competing on Samford’s cross country and track teams.
“More than 350 people came to that first RACE and since then we’ve raised more than $240,000 and helped 35 children come home through RACE grants,” she said.
In addition to increased funds raised, the number of runners has also grown, boasting record participants nearly every year. During COVID-19, the RACE team encouraged support through “virtual runners” who donated by purchasing RACE t-shirts.
The Prestons and their Board of Directors manage all logistics and planning for RACE events from location scouting to volunteer mobilizing. Preston said she continues to reference what she learned at Samford to continue to grow RACE each year.
“Samford was a time of amazing spiritual growth and I think I’m seeing the fruit of that,” she said. “Samford had a lot of international students and meeting people from other countries grew a desire in me.”
The Prestons aren’t the only Samford graduates who have been impacted by RACE. Since its inception, three Samford alumni families have received grants and continued to support RACE. Daniel Ausbun ’01 and Sherri Ausbun ’99 were the first family after the Prestons to receive a RACE grant.
“Participating in RACE was a wonderful experience,” Ausbun said. “We felt truly supported. Before being connected with RACE we did not know the Prestons were Samford alumni, but I think it just shows the heart of what Samford is all about. The Samford community has such a heart for serving others and the work the Prestons have done with RACE is an excellent example of that.”
As RACE grows, Preston hopes to see the organization’s events draw runners of all experience levels including those seeking qualifying races.
“We want to offer a high caliber event for a very worthy cause,” she said.
The 9th Annual RACE is scheduled for May 1, 2021. To find out more information about the ministry and to register for the RACE, donate, or apply for an adoption grant, visit www.racefortheorphans.org.